tv Charlie Rose PBS January 23, 2014 12:00am-1:01am PST
program. we begin tonight with general stanley mcchrystal. >> the taliban saw opportunity, they came back in and they said, look, what is happening, you going back to the bad old days and the americans are not going to solve your problem, and they started to find fertile ground, not initially in huge places but slowly, and so they were able to grow up their political power and in some cases military, and so we made mistakes in not seeing that happen early enough, not reacting to it strongly enough when we did, we were under resourced in many ways, but probably most we were underresourced in understanding. >> rose: we conclude this evening with a conversation about fallujah, a critical battle in the iraqi war, we talk to four marines who were there, mike schupp, adam banotai, zach iscol and ryan sparks. >> but i think, you know, for me
personally, you know, when i think about the friends and the comrades who gave their life in the city of fallujah, i try not to think that they gave their life for anything that we were doing in iraq but they gave their life to the man to the left and right and that does help me and has meaning that we lead our own lives each day and what we do with the rest of our lives but i try not to tie that to anything that is geopolitical in nature or to the future of a country that we really have no control over. >> rose: our conversation with stanley mcchrystal and a look at the battle for fallujah, then and now when we continue. >> funding for charlie rose was provided by the following. >> >> there is a saying around here, you stand behind what you say. around here, we don't make excuses. we make commitments.
and when you can't live up to them, you own up and make it right. some people think the kind of accountability that thrives on so many streets in this country has gone missing in the places where it is needed most. but i know you will still find it when you know where to look. >> rose: additional funding provided by these funders. >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide. >> from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> i believe that by next summer you will see significant improvements in security, forces
will continue to flow where for more than over a year until they all arrive, by this time next year, one year from now, i believe i will be able to tell you that the strategy is clearly working and -- >> rose: general stanley mcchrystal a is here, he was commander of the national security assistance force and the united states forces in afghanistan from 2008 to 2009. he also played a key r in iraq as commander of the joint special operations command, he was instrumental in the capture of saddam hussein and the killing of abu massad sar you which, my share of the task has just been released in paperback and comes at a time when both iraq and afghanistan are facing renewed and violent insurgencies, i am pleased to have stanley mcchrystal back at this table. welcome. >> thank you, charlie, i appreciate it. >> rose: we will talk about many things, including where you are today and where you are going forward but also look back at where you have some advantage of experience and insight,
afghanistan. where are we in your judgment on the ground there as they prepare to lead most troops by 2014 and maybe all? >> yes, i think w we are at a sensitive period in afghanistan but then of course in the last 15 years, what hasn't been i think that militarily or security wise, there has been a lot of gains made, and those gains are shown on the ground and in the relative life of the people, i think in terms of government, there has been great problems, internal to the afghan government there has been a real difficulty in getting local governance adequate, competent alcohol administration, technocrats down to low levels which builds confidence of the people and then at the national level, there has been a problem with them being able to to be a credible national government. i don't think they -- that that is impossible for them but it has been a challenge. and then the third which i think people forget sometimes is i think the afghan people have
moved to a different place. i think that particularly, particularly young people, not just those in school we talk so much about but those who may be, maybe graduated from school and afghan females and a lot of other afghans are not ready to go back in time, they are not ready to go back to pre9/11, they are not ready to go back to 1990, they are not ready to go back to 1978, so when people talk about afghanistan and what will happen in the future and they immediately pull out a history book and they say this is what will happen, i think it is a different afghanistan, now, there are are still fraught with dangers because that political weakness could break into, it could break into violence in the groups, i don't think the taliban can take over, i just don't think they are strong enough but i think there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty and the afghan people are plagued by what happens next question. >> rose: what mistakes did the united states and its allies make in afghanistan? >> a number. i think that i am going to include afghans in our allies.
>> rose: sure. >> if we go back just to 9/11 and we say that we went in sort of unexpectedly after the al qaeda elements that were there, we suddenly found ourselves having toppled the taliban government without really having thought what next? now we have a country that had been through about 20 years of war at that point, it was badly damaged, had very littleinfrastructure or personal capital, human balance in terms of putting again governance and what not and we thought that we could do things more cheaply than we did. we thought we could say that the germans would do the police, the italians would do the courts the americans would do the army and a few other things and slide out and that just wasn't realistic it was going to take a much bigger international effort, and in our haste and sometimes our ignorance we allowed a number of what i call nontraditional leaders, warlords, in many cases people to gather economic,
political and sometimes military power, we allowed them to get into places sometimes where they had been before, and what that signaled to the afghan population is that here we go again, we are going back to a bad old days that really was what preceded the taliban so the afghan people said well we just leaving the taliban period, the danger is we are going to go back to what we hated about that pretaliban period. so i think we lost confidence amongst many afghans during that 2001 to 2004 period. the taliban saw opportunity. they came back in and they said, look what is happening, you are going back to the bad old days and the americans are not going to solve your problems, and they started to find fertile ground, not initially in huge places but slowly. and so they were able to grow up their political power and in some cases military, and so we made mistakes in not seeing that happen early enough, not reacting to it strongly enough when we did, we were under
resourced in many ways, but probably most we were underresourced in understanding. we didn't study the problem enough, we didn't learn the language enough, we didn't take a long-term truly consistent focussed approach to it. >> rose: we did not leave a residual force there. do you believe if there had been a residual force perhaps 10,000 people or more soldiers that we would not see the conflict we see today? >> there is no way to guarantee that but i think the chances are that we would have a better situation there now. i think the demonstration of continued partnership with the government of iraq could have been a factor that would have given the sunnis more confidence that they are they were going to have an ability to be more fairly. >> rose: and perhaps persuade the prime minister of them as well. >> we lost a tremendous amount of leverage with the prime
minister when we were gone, now i understand the desire to be gone, but i think that it also signaled to the region that we had touched the stove and it was too hot and we were going to withdraw our hands, and i think that what we, why we don't want to stay places with huge numbers of people we must stay engaged in parts of the world. >> rose: if we left a residual force what would they have done? >> i think that most likely they would have largerly done training, professional station of iraqi forces, logistic support and things, but to a certain degree .. they also would have been a demonstrated commitment, a demonstrated partnership. >> rose: but if you look at hiring the president prepared to negotiate to keep a residual force there, it wasn't like we didn't want to have one, it was the negotiations as i understand it, were unsuccessful. >> that is my understanding as well and of course. >> and they may be unsuccessful in afghanistan as well. >> they may be indeed. >> rose: and then you have the reality that the iraqi foreign
minister is saying to the afghans, don't make the mistake we did, and not keep some americans there, but they may. which brings me to this question. yoyou are one of the people who had a relationship with ahmed karzai, i don't understand him. rounderstand why after all this he still seems, either he is just purely political and perhaps corrupt or likely corrupt, yet after all that america has done and he wouldn't be in power without america, he seems to resentful. >> there is a saying that says that give somebody something and the first person they hate is you, and bob comma wrote a paper near the end of the vietnam war that said, the paradox of counter ininsurgency is that
client state that you are helping is soon finds itself less committed to it than you do, the donor cares more than the recipient. i think that in the case of afghanistan, there are a number of things that work here. first i think the -- many of the afghan people are trying to come to grips with what they think is eminent abandonment and i think many of them are trying to steel themselves that we are going to leave so they are emotionally and physically prepared. >> rose: because it happened before. >> correct. i think president karzai, and i certainly wouldn't presume to do a psychological study but i think if you see his relationship with the united states, it is under premised on practical things he doesn't want to be portrayed as a pup competent. >> rose: as washington's man. >> that's right. he also thinks that in the future, afghanistan he is going to have to be very independent and therefore not have to dance to our fiddle.
on the other hand, he is also had enough of a painful relationship where over what is thousand many years, this is from 2001, it is a long tt&t to operate out of a palace where it is very difficult for him to travel. it is a long time to be going through this endless cycle of commanders and american enter lock tours from secretaries of state .. to generals and ambassadors, and to find that in many cases he thinks that he hasn't been listened to or hasn't been respected,. >> rose: respect is a big thing. >> it is, it is a huge thing and i think if you sort of look at that, overtime he gets increasingly frustrated with that and he is human. in my -- the mohammed karzai i knew was a good man and rational man but he was a human, and he had all the frustrations and responses that other people -- >> rose: so how did you as the
general who came to see him, give us the secret -- or at least your own sense of how you should engage him by showing him the respect, by trying to gain his confidence, by trying to, disavow him of his worst instincts? >> and i certainly have to secret and i think it is just dealing with people, the first thing i did was view him as an elected leader of a nation, not as a client of the united states that worked for me or was dependent upon us. he was a sovereign leader of a nation. and when i first went to see him the first time, it was not tradition for americans to be in anything but our battle uniform, but i took my dress green uniform for my first meeting with him i dressed in that and went to see him, which was my attempt to show him special respect and to almost lake i was providing, presenting my credentials as i was an arriving person. i also tried to communicate to
him that this was not only his nation, this was his war, and that i was the commander of nato troops, but in reality i was supporting the afghan army's fight of the war. now he never viewed it as his war, he viewed the war in afghanistan as something they were reluctantly allowing the west to fight on their territory, because it benefitted them, but they didn't like that. and what i tried to do is convince him, this is a war for national survivor and, survival and it is your war and you have to take the role in command never chief in doing that. i don't claim that we got all the way to that, but i made efforts to establish that. there were times that i am sure that he would have liked me to do differently than i did and there were times when i would liked him to do differently than he did but i believe by working as hard as we did on the relationship there were also times when we each did differently than our instincts might have been to maintain the relationship. and the goal was to strengthen
that to the point where he trusted me as a person, and he trusted me as a military commander, and i could be a good support for the other natural interlocutors, the arizona ambassador our secretary of state, our president as they did, policy level. >> rose: and you have to overlay this there has never been a strong central government in afghanistan ever, i mean tribal areas have their own leadership and that makes a central government's task that much stronger -- much more challenging. >> that's right if you are president karzai you don't have a political party. you don't have this automatic the base of support. you are trying to triangulate between a number of different interests and the foreigners, the west being an interest, and the taliban, interestingly enough being an interest, you are trying to balance between all of these, not going so far to one that the others become enemies. >> rose: what is it that three or four things that you think is essential to communicate to young people of yale or if you
are disod come to west point or annapolis or air force academy and say the same thing to future military leaders? >> absolutely. first off, and i will keep it fairly focused on things associated with war, the first is we tend to think of war and sometimes we say we are going to conquer a piece of ground or we are going to do something that seems very physical. war is about people. war is won in people's minds. it is won -- the army that wins is the one that thinks it won. the one that loses is the one that thinks it is losing or losing or has lost, and the population decides which side wins, and that is very counterintuitive when you try to take an imperial look at war, an empirical look at war. the first thing, it is about people, and so to the degree you are not just moving stuff, you are influencing people. the second is, we say the general must have or military leaders must have a great
strategy. in reality i have come to believe you can do strategy pretty quickly, you or i could sit here in an hour and come up with a workable strategy. >> rose: yes. >> the genius is implementing it and to implement it, means you have got to do a number of things. first you have to articulate it, clearly, constantly, and have it understood. people have got to believe that you are absolutely mitted to it a and that you will provide the kind of focus, if you state your strategy different every day they wait until the next day, to one they like and they withhold action. they have got to believe it is consistent commitment. they have got to believe that they are a part of it, you have got to convince people, your soldiers, your civilians and the people that this is a strategy that they in the only will benefit from, but they must contribute to. so they don't want to see general mcchrystal's strategy, they want to see our strategy, and they have to, they have to step that, so it becomes a
people exercise at every level. then i think the last i would say is, it is about the building trust. if there is anything i have come to believe, and i go back and i look at, you know, the 2004 dream team, you say i am going to build a great team and so you say i am going to go get great tall len and put this talent together. that does not equal a great team. a great team does have a component of talent but the other component is what i call shared consciousness which is a combination of trust, common purpose, and informed contextual understanding so together this entity believes in the same thing and understands, is informed must have to do that well. then you put those together and suddenly you have the necessary ingredients to have a truly effective team. if you build a great team and reinforce that, you can do just
about anything. if you don't focus on that team part, no matter how brilliant the strategy is, you are likely not to a. >> rose: like the first dream team. >> exactly. >> rose: and they changed with the second dream team because of a different coach. >> exactly. >> rose: let me talk about bob gates book for a second. and get your take on this, this idea first was that the president who supported the surge and that you had recommended from the field some different levels of troops that might be necessary, 70,000 to 50, whatever the numbers were and you know them. and then there had been much debate and the president talked and listened to a lot of people and then there was the leak of a memo from some people thought it came from you or people around you, because they wanted to, quote, you know, make the case publicly for what they felt they needed to do the job. who leaked the memo and do you think it had a devastating
impact or a significant impact on the relationship between the president and his generals in the field, especially you? >> yes. i know that i didn't leak it and i am almost 100 percent sure nobody on my staff did. we had had -- we had started work on that in june, we finished it in early august, we had been told not to submit it until september, which is when we submitted it. and then it was back in dc for about three weeks and then it leaked. and we had no reason to leak it, because, in fact, once it was leaked, it made my job and our job much harder. we were much better to have the president and his team with a chance to digest it, so i absolutely think that the speculation that we leaked it is completely incorrect. >> i don't know who did leak it and some day somebody -- >> rose: you want to know or not very much? >> not very much at this point.
>> yeah. these leaks are so damaging because what they do is they undercut trust, they change the debate should have been about what was in the assessment the discussion should have been about, because i gave to the assessment in two pieces. the first piece was the assessment that said here is the situation, here is what we have a to do, if we with a tonight succeed. and i didn't put anything about troops in there. i said you must change the way we fight this war or we will fail. if you accept this assessment, if you accept these conclusions, then look at part 2, which we gave about two weeks later, i think, and part 2 said, these are the resources required, but don't do the resourcing if you don't believe this first part, because it will be good money after bad. and so as we did this, we were very careful to try to make sure
that people understood we weren't giving a judgment on the war. i told my staff, think of ourselves as auto mechanic mechanics we don't own the car but asked to say what it would take to get the car in running order. try to be dispassionate and give this assessment and i think we did a very, very effective job of that. >> do you recognize the fact that the president felt like he was being boxed in by the military? >> i do. i will be honest at the time i did not. >> rose: yes. >> when i got to afghanistan in june, i developed our mission statement based upon the president's earlier statements and speeches and i felt it was absolutely in line with what he had said, and i believe we were. i was not aware of the depth of the relooking of the overall mitt romney to afghanistan, and so when i submitted the assessment and there started to be this tremendous discussion, i was late to understanding the depth of that. i felt we were discussing how we were going to execute the president's mission, but instead
the discussion had shifted. >> rose: to what the mission ought to be. >> that is correct. >> rose: and then there was a question and answer in london after you made a speech which didn't help matters. >> it did not. >>my rose:. >> >> rose: so bob gates has said and sometimes it seems it is misunderstood in part that the president sent men and women into battle without supporting the anything, that seems to be not true and that's what bob gates said, it was not true, but the president did, as you would think a commander in chief would do, ask questions, you know, and to be skeptical, is in working but if it is working how do you explain this? i would hope a commander in chief, in fact i would hope a general would say that to his lieutenants, would you not? >> yes. and i actually thought the assessment process was healthy because it really did force the discussion, now, not all parts of it were comfortable or done as perfectly, but i thought that level of focus on what are we trying to do and what is it going to take to do it was very healthy. >> rose: bob gates says he
supported all of the president's decision with respect to afghanistan, did you? >> yes. i would not have recommended -- i was asked whether i the recommended announce ago july 11 beginning of pulling forces out. >> right, right. >> but i told him, he asked me point blank can you accept that and i said yes, i could, and i could and i still can. >> rose: everybody is trying to understand the president and leadership and the whole range of domestic and foreign issues, give me your sense of him from your contact with him as a leader, as a commander in chief, and as a president. >> of course i have a very limited epipicture on the president, what i found was he had thought very analytically about afghanistan from the beginning, from when he took the presidency in january of 2009. he thought about it. i think he was frustrated because as he was trying to understand it, he was being
given a drum beat of decisions that had to be made before he had time to completely internalize what the situation was, and so i think he was being asked to make another commitment first almost the day he took over. >> rose: right. >> and so i think that caused great frustration, and what that did was, it caused him to be skeptical of the information he was getting and whether people were trying to push him too fast and of course the problem is events in the battlefield, you know, pushed that. i think the next part is, i think he -- and i am speculating on this, but i think he had a natural lack of familiarity with how the military works. anyone would, that is not a criticism, anyone who deals with a different culture or group of people, it takes a while to get that. if you doing it really sort of for the first time as the president of the united states, you are not only trying to feel more comfortable with that culture but you are doing it as
their commander, and so i think he was trying very hard to balance the fact that he had responsibilities as a commander, he, his loyalty and leadership, military have a the demeanor that they develop over many years. we wear uniforms that overtly describe where we have been, what we have done,, what our rank is and what not and in some ways we benefit from the fact that it looks impressive and people can ooh and ah and sometimes when you enter a room you get more respect as an individual have earned, so we sometimes use that persona, we feel comfortable in it, but at the same time it creates a divide between us and other people. >> rose: yeah. >> and we pay a price for that and we are partly to blame for the fact that we benefit on the one hand but we don't pay as much respect to the negative sides of that as we could. >> rose: general odierno was here and he said one thing that
interests me i asked him this question and i want you to tell me how you see it too, that questions have power, and he said we ought to ask the wrong questions in iraq, he was talking about. i mean, in your own experience, there have been cases in which you asked the wrong question and therefore couldn't get to the right answer. >> rephotoedly, and ray is exactly right, when we started the fight against al way in iraq, i was a tactically focused guy, and so the first question i wanted to know is, where are the enemy? and then as we got a little more experienced we started to say now wait a minute, what is the enemy doing that is a high level thoughtful question. and then we said that is not really the answer. the next answer really we want to know, who is the enemy? what is the make-up of them? where do they come from? what are they? the right question was why is the enemy? why is there an enemy? what is causing people to join this organization? what is causing them to do it? but it
took us almost lick walking through fresh, freshman, sophomore, jr. year before you goat the problem because if you don't understand the root of this, you are going to be dealing with the symptoms forever. >> navy seals, i am go doing talk about that later in this hour as well. tell me about how you see navy seals and what they represent and what kind of person comes out of that training? >> sure. and i am going to expand it to the be the special operators i worked with, the special operations unit. they are pretty unique. the first is that they have decided to volunteer for a more difficult but a more he heat type of service and i think in many cases it is because what they are really looking for is to belong to something that challenges them as individuals but allows them to sit at a table with people they admire and be considered an equal and
that is a very addictive feeling if you are stud he around people that would otherwise be your heroes and they look at you as somebody that they respect, so it is a draw to be in that, cs lewis wrote a wonderful article, it is a little bit of the desire to be in the innermost ring. they are willing to pay a price in terms of how hard it is, how much time away and what not, because being part of that very, very elite organization fulfills in them some needs. they are -- they are headstrong, often, you can't lead in the same way you lead conventional troops, you have to engage them. in fact, the best way i pound to engage really academy special operators was not to tell them what to do, but to describe a problem, just say i have got this problem. do you think it can be solved and they look at it and say well we think we could and you say
how do you do that and they describe it and say would you be willing to do that? and even though it might be very, very dangerous mission and then they make the call at whatever. >> rose: what are you training? are you training -- is it toughness of mind? >> it is problem solving, and it is problem solving not just from a logical sense but from an emotional sense. if you give me a problem and you say, solve that problem and you give me a bunch of things i can't do or limits and resources then i can come back and say i can't do it or i don't have must have time or money and i have a crutch and i just, and we stay mediocre i had a boss bill garrison who commanded in mogadishu, wonderful guy, an after action review and the communication in an aircraft didn't work and i want it fixed and a bunch of mealymouthed answerness and he said, no, wait a minute, whatever equipment you have to buyly buy it for you, whatever experts you have to hire to come in and train, i
will do, whatever other exercises you need to do, i will schedule. no excuses. no constraint, no excuses .. and suddenly you take away from people the idea that they have got a ready reason why they can't be great. >> rose: i would do it but, you take away the but. >> exactly. >> rose: now, i ask these questions too because of what you are doing now. you teach at yale and you have something called the mcchrystal group and writing another book that is going to capture the essence of some of these ideas i think. tell me wha what this is all ab. >> they are all related because i a am just fascinated with leadership in the current scrairment and what i will tell you my experience in iraq and reinforced in afghanistan was that for many, many years, really since frederick winslow taylor came up with scientific management, we worshipped at the altar of efficiency, really good assembly lines, rereductionism until we could break everything
down to individual tasks and if we did those tasks to a high standard we would be very efficient and if we are very efficient we will be very effective. what i think happened is, you can only get the most efficient solution, you can solve for y for how much x you need, only if you really know what y is, and we are in a world now where things are changing so fast we no longer know what the requirement is for tomorrow so we can't build a perfect process because we don't know what the output has to be. so the new holy grail in my view, our view is adaptability, building an organization that is organically, automatically diswiend to be adaptable, it is by necessity designed to look for moving targets, developing good enough solutions constantly to do that. in that vein, two former seals who worked for me and then a young yale student who was very bright guy, we are cowriting a
book about this system which we call cross lead, and it is going to show the history of it, but it is also going to show not just military examples but business examples and government examples that we have been researching and some that our firm mcchrystal group has been partnering with civilian companies to do. we don't work in any defense or government, we don't do what a lot of people expect ex-military to do. we are partnered with a very different part of the environment and enjoying it. >> rose: and i think you and anne are also part of a franklin project which is what. >> the franklin project got me very excited, i believe that citizenship in america has eroded and i think people tend to think of citizenship as my rights, my entitle.s and i think citizenship is more than voting or paying taxes .. i think citizenship is a commitment to the nation and a commitment to other americans, and so in that regard i think much comes when you have to commit to something, when you have to sacrifice, when you have to contribute, so what the train lynn project is
designed to do is create the opportunity for every young american between 18 and 28 to do a year, of fully funded with a living stipend service, conservation, healthcare, education, because only military, military only needs a certain number, but to give every american that kind of experience for a year, serving with people from brooklyn or san diego or you name it in areas that allow them to work together, force them to work together but also at the end of that year they will have sacrificed a bit, they will have contribute add bit, they will have helped build something and i think that will ultimately change how they view themselves as citizens, and so we are well into our effort, we have a big summit planned in june at gettysburg to really captured the spirit of this and move forward and i am very excited about spliet it is great to have you here. >> thank you very much, charlie. >> rose: genera general mcchryss book is called my share of the
task. it has a new preface and now in papepaperback. back in a moment. stay with us. >> we are in contact with tribal leaders, in anbar province and we know who are showing great courage in standing up against this as they reject terrorist groups, from their cities. and this is a fight that belongs to the iraqis. that is exactly what the president and the world decided some time ago when we left iraq. >> rose: the second battle of fallujah fought in 2004 was the biggest urban military operation involving american troops since the korean war. close to 100 u.s. traps were killed and more than 1,000 wounded. but the mission was successful, fall va was cleared of al qaeda, this month the city and much of the anbar province has fallen back into militant hands, the setback has come as a sharp blow to iraq veterans, joining me are marines who fought in the second
battle of fallujah, adam sergeant adam banotai was squad leader and 21 at the time, zach iscol was combined platoon and built the only iraqi unit to night the front lines. >> ryan sparks is a commander who recently retired, mike schupp was ridge mental team, main effort of the ground assault and in charge of fallujah's reconstruction and first free iraqi elections held in 2005. i am pleased and honored to have you here at this table. welcome. >> thank you. >> rose: i want to share with this audience, in a sense take me to 2004 and why the battle was significant. i read to you what dexter filkins wrote at the time in "the new york times", quote, the proximity gave the fighting a hellish intensity which soldiers often close enough to look their enemies in the eyes for a correspondent who has covered half a dozen armed conflicts including the war in iraq since
its start in march of 2003 the fighting seen while travelling with a front line unit in fall va was a qualitatively different experience, a leap into a different kind of battle. tell me about it. >> fallujah at the time was the mosts most violent part of iraq, the city was held by al qaeda and al qaeda affiliated forces. our battalion, ryan and my battalion, third battalion third marines operating outside of the city for the previous five months of going into the city, and it was rough, constant ieds, kidnappings in the surrounding areas, mortar attacks, rocket attacks, am bushes and we knew at some point we would have to go into the city to clear it out. >> it was off limits. u.s. forces coalition forces couldn't enter the city, it was so bad that we were subject to indirect fire attacks on a regular basis and in fact, our ridge mental ct ridge mental
command most was hit by a 122 mill, rocket that severely wounded my predecessor before i took over the regiment. the enemy had free will on the roads of ied@tax and small arm at tabs and we couldn't enter the city as i was doing my first battlefield tours of the area it was sir you have to run to the sandbag fortifications because if you walk we are going to be brought under fire and the enemy is going to take us under attack so this was a thorn in all of iraq, because the enemy was using the stronghold to launch attacks either west into ramadi or east into baghdad, so it had to be addressed at this point in time. >> tall ja was close enough to affect baghdad on a daily basis and to put it in perspective it is about the same says as jacksonville florida with the same modern infrastructure, communication systems, so this isn't a small little town, this is a large place where an organized insurgency, enemy forces al way could operate at the time, and so it was very
easy for them to go into baghdad and attacks or ramadi and this surrounding area and then go back, plan, have plenty of communications all the resources they needed, and it was very easy to defend, so as went fallujah so went the rest of southern iraq. >> somewhere ryan and zach my battalion was operating outside of fallujah prior to the battle, after the first battle of fallujah in april of 2004 and we encountered a lot of problems, with ied attacks indirect fire we knew was kind of stemming from the basis in fallujah, but the main problem we had we knew ever since the first battle of fallujah it was just festering that sooner or later fallujah was the elephant in the room, sooner or later we knew we would have to go in there and clean it out and every day we waited there were more fight in other words the city, more heavily fortified with more weapons and better plans, so it would have been our preference to go in as soon as possible because we always knew it was going to be a big problem. >> rose: this came how many days or help me understand the timtimeline when you had that al
killing of the four private contractors. >> march, april, 2004. >> rose: and the battle for fallujah took place. >> november. >> rose: november so a period of months before that happened. >> the coalition wanted the iraqis to try to address the problem, but the iraqi forces that were inside of the city were all being coerced bien my fighters within the city we would later find when we captured enemy strongholds they had the personal records of the police, the national guard, and the enemy was brutal must have to take it out on their family, whether it be their parents or their children to make the police and the military do what they wanted them to do inside of fallujah, but the iraqis that fought wit with us later on, che came from baghdad, more of a national spirit, i think it is one thing that is very important to remember that inside the city, as the city was cleared, we found over 560 carbs of ammunition caches of arms, not a
few ak 47s, it was hundreds of pieces of either artillery rounds, surface to air missiles or weapons that could have been used in any aspect on the battlefield. it was a very dangerous place. >> and when you -- and when it was over, at were your thoughts what did you assume this has been as fierce a fighting asly see? but we have won and we have done something that will be important? in terms of this larger war in. >> >> it was certainly the fiercest fighting we had seen up to that point and fierce enough i thought there is nothing worse than this, i think it was as bad as it could get. >> rose: and was it? >> i would say yes, i never encountered anything that was that bad, maybe some of these gentlemen did in some deployment. we certainly thought at my level it was going to improve the city, both because we h eliminated so many fightsers and we eliminated the safe haven. >> but also lost your own -- >> yes, certainly, but i think
the casualties were so overwhelmingly in our favor that like i said we thought it was going to have a significant improvement on iraq. >> i think when we came home, you know, fallujah immediately became peaceful, and it could be simply because we had turned it into a desert, you know, we really had gone into that city there really wasn't anything left in the city after the battle but you also had a lot of stories in the gnaws and we came home in january, had the iraqi elections and the arab spring, the first arab spring that occurred, there is even a great jon stewart quote where he asks in the winter of 2005, if bush was right, because of the elections that had taken place in iraq because of some of the changes that were happening in the middle east, now, soon thereafter, that changed, you know, pretty rapidly, later on in 2005 things started to go south again, but there was a period of time after the battle of fallujah where it hooked like we had really achieved something
bigger than just clearing out the city. >> after the city was taken, we didn't husband another marine until the ridge meant rotated back afterwards, i can't tell you what happened to the next regiment that took our positions but it went from the worst place in iraq to one of the safest places, when i was brought to baghdad to talk about the battle i could hear explosions going off in the distance, and i told, i joked with the commanders i said they needed to come out to fallujah because now it is a safer area, well we made a large gated community out of fallujah, but then we struck out into the country side and we had some of the local sheiks and local leaders in town asking us could we do the same thing that was done in fallujah and clean out our area of the country but we attacked the enemy and continued to hunt them down into the surrounding communities so they wouldn't have a chance to come back. >> but the point here, fallujah had meaning and it had sacrifice and meaning and victory, yes? >> absolutely. but i think one thing we often forget is how did fallujah
become baaed in the first place and that is often part of the story that is missing. it didn't start with the blackwater contractors that were killed, it started in august of 2003 when an element of the eight second airborne, there was a group of iraqis protesting outside of a school and shots were fired, shots weren't fired, it was a he said, she said situation, but i think 76 iraqis were wounded and a number were killed and that was really -- >> rose: civilians or soldiers. >> civilians, iraqi civilians were killed in the summer of 2003 and that was really when fallujah started to become bad. and then things got progressively worse through the remainder of 2003 into 2004. so to call it a victory, you know, i wouldn't -- i wouldn't necessarily call it a victory, i would say, though, it was the operation itself was a success.
but perhaps if we had operated differently from the get-go there never would have been a need for that operation. >> charlie, i worry about the longer. >> rose: has that story been told too. >> there are definitely reports, cnn covered it, but it is not a part of the narrative of fallujah that you often here. >> fallujah, if you look at the history of iraq, has a long seated history of criminal nefarious activity that occurred there, human trafficking, arms trafficking, drugs, prostitution, and we would find out later on as the iraqi soldiers came into fallujah to train with us, when we were with their leaders, that saddam hussein during his time would go on a regular basis and clear the city of criminal activity, and the military would actually occupy the city for times. and then they would pull their military forces out. what we found is, we ran into the hotbed of criminal and enemy activity. it was an easy transit route for
islamic extremist and enemy fighters coming from the west but also these criminal gangs that operated feely inside of fallujah, because there was no legitimate law enforcement from the ministry of interior and the military presence was completely lost inside of fallujah. that is what we came into. >> rose: i don't want to add more military significance to this than you do, for sure. but bringing me to today's time and what you saw has happened and what is going on in iraq. >> ryan and i talk about this all the time ryan is one of my closest friends in the marine corps and just moved to new york and so we get a chance to see each other a lot in the last couple of weeks, and it definitely hits home. this is a place that we invested a lot, we invested -- we lost friends, we fought, and you want to see it work out for the best uh but i think for me personally, you know, when i think about the
friends and the comrades who gave their life in the city of fallujah, i try not to think that they gave their life for anything that we were doing in iraq but they gave their life for the man on the left and right and that does have meaning and it has meaning in how we lead our lives, but i try not to tie that to anything that is geopolitical in nature or to the future of a country that we really have no control over. >> charlie, i agree. these 18, 20-year-old kids when they joined the marine corps, they joined to defend, a, their patriotism is community based and thinking of their high school friends, you know, their favorite taco shop and their parent and, you know, the parade on the 4th of july, it is not a macro or national sense the way it is talked about in the media. and then when they get into the marine corps it is the sense of community and the comrade ship that they cherish, and so in some place like fallujah, success for them is returning with honor and, you know,
maintaining the respect of the man on their left and right and being there for them, and every marine i encountered in fallujah i fought with did just that. wrote you know from a ctical sense, go back, i mean the battle had to be fought in november of 2004, at that time, to put it back in context, five days after president bush was reelected, you know, this is just a couple of years after 9/11, there was a, it was a very different sentiment in country at the time and we were just figuring out what had to be done in iraq long-term and in order for anything to be achieved and so at that time, fall va was so bad, it affected so much of the rest of the iraq it had to be fought. and then coming out of that, i think that that success there while you know we had about a sectarian violence over the next couple of years it is what eventually led to the anbar awakening and it allowed a little bit of momentum to happen there. so for me personally, i see that as success, the locals take back
overpower and then everything that has happened since then really whether we have a sofa agreement where they are training the iraqi army or not, those are all kind of the hindsight is blind, i mean who knows if that would have made a difference but we got them to a point where the iraqis took over for themselves and what we are witnessing is arab democracy at work, i mean this is kind of how it works it took us, you know, we are still working on it 2 years and this is a country that didn't ask for democracy, it wasn't a revolution that started it, so i think what with we are seeing here is the iraqi version of democracy in action, and all of us are going to have to kind of become comfortable i think with how things are done in the region and it is very similar to the stories around the rest of the middle east. >> rose: okay. so you have encouraged me to ask the question was it worth it? >> yes, you know, i think there has been a lot in the press recently about whether or not people should ask that question and i think that -- and whether or not people who have not
served can ask that question. and my personal feeling is that citizens of this country, whether you served in uniform, whether you didn't serve in yawmpl, whether you served in combat or not, have an obligation to ask that question, because otherwise what are we doing in these places if we don't have a citizen i are that is asking the hard questions about whether or not we should be sending our young men and women to fight for us. >> rose: okay. so then you read that it has been recaptured by people and there is another new flag over the city of fallujah. does that change the question was it worth it? the answer to the question? >> it is a great question and i think it depends on how you measure was it worth it? and i think for the guys that we served alongside, you know, when i was a kid, i had a friend of mine who was like an older brother died in a car accident, and he was five years older, i remember going to his funeral, and the rabbi pulled all the young people and this is the first person any of us knew who was relatively close to our age
that died and he said, you know, you now all have an obligation to live your life for john schlessinger, and whenever we lost somebody in iraq, i would always say that to my marines, we now have an obligation to live our lives for the guys that weren't able to make it. and, you know,, the guys who served alongside who are not with us today they gave their lives so we could live full lives and so we could have families and do something productive with our lives, was it worth it? you know, i don't know yet. i mean i think that depends on what we do with our lives. >> i think it was very frustrating but changing mind-sets from what we saw inside of iraq. when we first, the battle was over and the iraqi forces, two brigades came into the city in a public order brigade probably about 7,000 iraqis joined us, when those iraqi soldiers who were with us training every day would see the local people come up to u.s. soldiers first because they trusted us and they respected us, that was started
things changing they saw how we protected and served the people and we were starting to see small changes in the iraqi military. rather than taking out sticks and beating the crowd or firing into the sky, now they were going out there and pushing them back slowly. >> as i said undoubtfully a lot of good came from the second battle of fallujah after we cleared out all of that criminal activity, however the subsequent fall now does not change whether or not it is worth it, because that 18 or 19-year-old marine or sailor that went in there to fight he didn't fight to make iraq necessarily a better place, he wasn't that concerned for the high level, like ryan said he enlisted or went into the military to fight for his friends, his loved ones and his family and once he got there he fought for the brother to the left and right of him, and that is who he sacrificed for and that's who he died for and as long as he valiantly did that, it is worth it because we do
have an obligation to fight on for them, and i just feel like their sacrifice is worth it no matter what, because i am here, because we are all here, and those men made it so we could be here. >> it is a great scene at the end of saving private ryan where private ryan is now an 80-year-old man and at the grave site of one of the guys that gave his life so he could live this normandy and he asked i did i live a good life and was defeating hitler worth it did i live a good life and that answer determines whether the sacrifice of the guys that saved his life was worth it. >> charlie, i turn the question back around, i think that when you ask whether it was worth it or not, the, you know, and i said this a couple of days ago, i think that we the people are the ones that need to answer that question, and, you know, really since world war ii
looking at korea and vietnam and some of the shorter a wars we fought, maybe not, definitely iraq and afghanistan, there were elections held and representatives and the president who was like i said elected five days ahead of time are the ones who made these decisions and ultimately, we citizens of the republic are the ones that put them in those places and so before we spend our treasure and the most precious lives of our american military i think this we all need to look at ourselves and say, when we enter these conflicts, is it worth it before we go in? and i think that going forward from here that is what we really have to -- we have to main that in our head because this is now, you know, recently, you know, i compared there to kason and it is very similar in that a lot of american blood was taken, was spilled to take this piece of ground and every military a, is has a time stamp on it that these things come and go and the people that were there, like we said we fought for each other buts us as a nation and the
repercussion office this war whether we agree with it or not is irrelevant but as -- not irrelevant but as we go forward we really need to concentrate before we commit our troops again, is it worth it? and that's for every single person to decide, but they need to make that decision ahead of time a instead of instead of thinking about it in regret later. >> brian brings up a good question, the wrong question is was it worth it based on what happened in fallujah but what happens to us as a country do we have a citizen i are that are more involved because of the lessons of iraq and afghanistan, do we ask hard questions before we send these men and women off to war again. >> rose: thank you. >> thank you for having this conversation. >> thank you very much. >> rose: and thank you for joining us. we will see you next time.
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